Ann Marie Martin


Posted by Ann Marie Martin on 4/19/2021


Image by Mark McCammon from Pexels

Staging is a marketing tool, not an exercise in decorating for living comfort. Professional real estate stagers should be a member of your team when you want to sell your home quickly and for top dollar.

Even if you have a go-getter real estate agent and your home is in a great neighborhood, consider staging as a way to enhance value and prompt an acceptable offer in the least amount of time. Your stager will target the "right" buyer, based on price, features and demographics, to achieve results.

Planting a "Buy Idea"

Contrary to the popular notion of staging, it does not involve an effort to "sell," but rather encourages the  buyer to envision living in a particular home. Savvy buyers will already have determined that a specific property is within their budget, that it has the right number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and that the location is a desirable option. Staging will reinforce the notion that the "good life" can become reality in that house.

Focusing on "Best" Features

A professional stager will not attempt to highlight every feature of the home. The purpose is to provide a prospective buyer with a memorable impression that distinguishes a particular property from all others. Your stager will discuss with you the best ways to create a lasting impression, but be prepared to remove overly personal accessories for the duration of the home's time on the market.

Minimizing Awkwardness

No home is perfect. Whether it's a matter of perception or personal preference, most houses have at least one space that can seem difficult. A professional stager might disguise a perceived fault, or may suggest a remedy. Common requests include repainting a room, clearing kitchen and bath clutter, or pulling weeds and placing pots full of colorful flowers near the front door to boost curb appeal.

Maximizing Existing Space

Your stager might want to remove or rearrange furniture, or ask you to pack up and store out-of-season clothing, books, sports equipment and toys. Understand that once the home sells, you will have to begin packing anyway, and spacious interiors are a selling tool. Let prospective buyers get a sense of possibilities as they walk through your home!

Magnifying Value

Assuming that your home is clean, well-maintained and reasonably priced, professional staging is the best way to provoke the emotional reaction that will prompt a prospective buyer to submit an offer. Staged homes typically sell faster and at higher prices than comparable unstaged property. The higher selling price will undoubtedly pay the fee!





Posted by Ann Marie Martin on 4/12/2021

Itís a difficult time to be a first-time home buyer. Post-recession buyers are wary--and for good reason--of how and when to save money for a down payment on a house. One thing to remember, however, is that itís always a good time to start saving.

In this article, weíre going to cover the four most useful methods of saving for a down payment on your first home. That way you can feel confident in taking the first and most important step toward homeownership.

Choosing the right savings account


Unlike riskier investments, a savings account is a safe and proven way of building interest and saving for a home. However, not all savings accounts are created equal.

Typically, brick and mortar banks offer interest rates that are low--the current national average is only about 0.06% annually. While these banks offer conveniences such as in-network ATMs and check-cashing, their physical locations make them expensive to run.

Enter the online bank. Since online banks donít have all of the costs associated with running branches, they can afford to offer better rewards--namely, high-interest returns on your savings accounts.

So, should you take all of your money out of your current savings account and transfer it to an online bank? Maybe. But letís talk about the benefits of having multiple savings accounts.

Open a dedicated account with automatic deposits

Saving isnít just difficult due to financial reasons. Managing money also takes time and effort. To simplify this process, itís preferable to direct deposit or automatically transfer a percentage of your weekly income into your down payment savings account.

While it may seem like pinching pennies at first, even small weekly deposits add up, and within a few years the compounding interest can earn you enough for a higher down payment than you thought possible.

Prioritize high-interest debt now

Have student debt or a car loan thatís keeping you from focusing on saving for a down payment? Oftentimes the best coarse of action is to aggressively pay off high-interest loans. In the long term, this will save you money that can then be used toward a down payment.

For debt that will take several years to pay off, consider refinancing for a lower interest rate, or consolidating your student loans. Speaking with a student loan adviser or financial planner is a good first step to take toward managing your debt.

Make a real budget

Most of us think of a verb when we hear the word ďbudget.Ē However, itís more useful as a noun.

Creating a real budget, whether itís in Excel, Google Sheets, or with the help of an app, having a budget you can refer to once a week is vital to making good savings decisions. It will help you monitor your spending and stay on top of your savings goals.





Posted by Ann Marie Martin on 4/5/2021

Photo by Mastersenaiper via Pixabay

When it comes to financing your home, you have a several mortgage options available. Each type of mortgage offers different advantages, so be sure to do research before applying. Below are some of the most popular types of mortgages borrowers may consider. 

Conventional Loans

A conventional loan is a mortgage not insured by the federal government. In most cases, conventional loans will conform to the standards established by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. However, some lenders may offer loans that do not adhere to these standards, which are known as non-conforming loans. In most cases, conventional loans will require a down payment of 20 percent. Otherwise, you will have to pay mortgage insurance. 

FHA Mortgages

FHA mortgages are a popular type of government-backed loan that is designed to give people with lower credit scores and/or lower buying power the ability to purchase a home. If you opt for an FHA mortgage, you may not need to make as large of a down payment, but you will need to pay mortgage insurance. Backed by the Federal Housing Administration, these loans are popular among first-time homebuyers. 

VA Mortgages

VA mortgages are home loans backed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. These loans are available to current members of the military as well as veterans. If you qualify, VA mortgages are very beneficial, as they offer a lower interest rate and may not require a down payment. VA mortgages donít require you to pay any mortgage insurance, either. 

Jumbo Mortgages

A jumbo mortgage is a loan that has limits higher than most other mortgages, which allows you to buy a more expensive property. These loans are most popular in areas where home prices are higher. Interest rates on jumbo mortgages are usually comparable to the rates paid on a conventional loan. However, the qualification requirements are much more strict. In most cases, you will need to show proof of significant assets, as well as a high credit score. Some lenders may offer other options, but the mortgages above are the most common. 

Keep in mind that even after you have chosen the type of mortgage you want, you will still have other decisions to make with regard to the type of rate and the length of the term. To make the best decision for your needs, consider working one-on-one with an experienced mortgage agent who can review your situation and help you choose the loan that makes the most sense.




Categories: finance   mortgages  


Posted by Ann Marie Martin on 3/29/2021

Giving the interior of your home a fresh coat of paint is one of the best ways to revitalize drab-looking rooms and make scuffed walls look new again.

While there are plenty of home improvement, repair, and decorating projects that are best left to the professionals, interior house painting is usually a task that can be successfully tackled by homeowners.

Advanced skills are not a prerequisite for doing a respectable job, but you do need patience, attention to detail, and the right tools. When you don't start out with the right supplies, wall painting can end up being a frustrating and stressful task -- not to mention messy! Here are a few pointers to help make the project go more smoothly.

  • Wear the appropriate clothing: If paint gets on your everyday shoes, your new jeans, or even a good watchband, it will basically ruin those articles of clothing. No matter how neat or precise you think you can be with a paintbrush or roller, it's almost impossible to avoid dripping a few drops of paint in the wrong place or even accidentally brushing up against a messy ladder, paint can, or freshly painted surface. By taking the time to change into clothes you don't care about, you'll be saving the aggravation of messing up a favorite pair of pants, shirt, or shoes. Wearing a painter's cap with a brim and disposable vinyl gloves can also minimize the amount of paint that gets on your face, hair, and hands. By making it easier to keep yourself clean, you'll find painting to be a much neater and more satisfying experience.
  • Choose the right drop cloths: The temptation for many do-it-yourselfers is to save money and cut costs whenever possible. While this certainly makes sense in principle, there are certain cases in which it pays to spend a few extra dollars to get quality supplies. The perfect example is drop cloths -- an essential item on your painting supplies list. Floors, furniture and appliances can get permanently damaged (cosmetically) if they're not properly covered up while the wall and ceiling paint is being applied. The really cheap drop cloths that you'll often find at hardware stores and other retail outlets are difficult to keep in place and could easily tear, become bunched up, or move a few inches from their intended spot. Those really light-weight, plastic drop cloths don't stand a chance of staying put when breezes from open windows, fans, or doors exert the slightest bit of air pressure on them. The solution is to either purchase canvas or heavy-duty plastic drop cloths. (In a pinch, old bedsheets can often do the job, too!)
  • Painter's tape is crucial: One of the most time-consuming, but necessary aspects of room painting is taping the edges of surfaces to be painted (or not to be painted). While not everyone takes the time to do this step correctly, it helps produce a professional-looking job you'll be proud of.
Painting can be a messy, frustrating, and unsatisfying task if you don't do the necessary prep work, wear the right kind of attire, and thoroughly cover floors, furniture, and anything else you want to protect from paint spills. Doing your own interior painting can save you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, but you'll be much happier with the outcome of your own work if you approach the job with patience, preparation, and the right supplies!





Posted by Ann Marie Martin on 3/22/2021


Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Is it better to build or buy a home? A home is a sizable investment, perhaps one of the largest in your lifetime, and you want to ensure you are investing well. Both buying and building have benefits and drawbacks to consider. Here's what you need to think about as you make this decision.

Pros and Cons of Buying

When you buy a home that's already been built, you have some benefits. First, the home already exists, so as soon as you can arrange financing and set a date with the seller you can close on the sale. You will not need to spend months waiting just for the home to be completed. Buying an existing home often costs a bit less. In addition to not having construction costs, you will not have to pay for landscaping, a deck nd many extras you will want in the home.

One major drawback to buying is that you are not going to have everything in the home just the way you like it. Often you will want to put in new flooring, paint the walls or remodel in some way. The costs of these changes may offset the savings you get from buying an existing home. Existing homes almost always need some sort of renovation. You may struggle to find exactly what you want, especially with older homes. For example, modern families often need more than one bathroom but it's not uncommon to find an older property with four bedrooms and just one bathroom. Great rooms are popular today but uncommon in homes built in the 1970s or earlier.

Pros and Cons of Building

The key benefit of building is the ability to customize the home. You can get exactly what you want including the floor plan, flooring and paint colors, and even exterior look when you build. You have the freedom to choose every element in the new property as long as it fits within your stated budget. Building also means you can improve the efficiency of your home. Adding smart home features in during the building stage, like choosing eco-friendly appliances and HVAC systems, means you won't have to install them separately later. You can also choose sustainable building materials.

When you move in to a newly built home, the home is fully yours without any prior damage or dirt. You are the first people to walk on the carpet and use the restroom. You are the first people to put things on the wall. Also, most newly built homes come with a builder's warranty. If something does go wrong you may be covered for the repairs.

The main drawback of building is the higher cost. Freedom to customize often makes it more difficult to stick to your budget. Financing can be difficult to obtain, and building often takes more time. You will need to have good financial standing and patience.

The Bottom Line

Overall, if you have the freedom of time and are not on a super tight budget, building gives you greater flexibility and freedom to get exactly what you want. If you do not have time or extra money to spend, then buying may be the right choice.







Ann Marie Martin